- Let the Pandemic be the Mother of Innovation in Schools - May 25, 2020
- TED Talks All Students Should See - March 23, 2020
- Consider the Word ‘Respect’ - January 7, 2018
- Watch from the Balcony, Lead on the Floor - April 10, 2017
- 38 Days a Teacher: Leadership, Followership, and Fellowship - April 3, 2017
- Watch from the Balcony, Lead on the Floor - March 23, 2017
- OMG – My Feet are Killing Me! Back to the Classroom - December 14, 2016
- Back in School: Pre-Game - November 30, 2016
- Who Will Care for the Teachers? - April 21, 2016
- No One Wants to be ‘Managed’ - January 12, 2016
When I sat down to write this piece, my purpose was to scribe a thinly veiled, autobiographical accounting of my own experience of surviving the middle school classroom while I struggled with depression. However, wanting to avoid the cathartic-memoir trope, I planned to include information on the prevalence of depressive disorders among classroom teachers .I was shocked to discover how little research has been done on this topic from the teacher perspective. A quick exploration of the Education Resources Information Center (a digital library of education research and information) revealed only 5 peer-reviewed articles published in American academic journals in the past 5 years. Casting a wider research net, to include psychology journals, delivered a richer selection of research, although (as with the educational journals) much of that research focuses on the impact a teacher with depression has on student achievement, rather than on what factors could contribute to or worsen a teacher’s experience with depression.
On the one hand, this lack of academic inquiry into teacher depression is astonishing. Teaching is consistently listed as one of the top ten most stressful job in the US. This is certainly a contributing factor in the large numbers of teachers leaving the profession every year (30 percent of teachers leave their positions within their first three years in front of students). Dozens of studies are conducted every year investigating this phenomenon. These studies explore factors such as administrative support, the pressures of evaluation and testing, the condition of the school building and student behavior. However, they rarely address health and wellness of educators.
The other hand, it is not surprising at all. The most common mantra in education is, ‘it’s about the kids’. Indeed it is. However, in past decade, ‘being about the kids’ absolutely excludes ‘being about the teachers.’ Mandate after mandate imposed on school districts require teachers to learn new curriculum, new instructional strategies, and a new evaluation system. Teachers are being asked to differentiate down to the needs and abilities of each student. These are all noble and necessary endeavors: but, teachers have received no additional time, resources or compensation to allow them to master these changes.
Robin Besse and her colleagues published a study in 2015 that reinforces that which is already known about depression in general and applies it to the teaching profession. Teachers who report enduring high levels of stress and anxiety, as well as feeling little self-efficacy and job-control, were more likely to have symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder. Stress, anxiety and depression intertwine to create a cycle from which it is difficult to escape. The more ineffectual teachers feel, the more they feel unsupported by the community and their administration, the more likely they are to fall into this cycle.
In a recently released study in Great Britain, Judi Kidger and her colleagues found that teachers experienced more than double the prevalence of depressive disorder than member of other professions . One recommendation to emerge from this study mentioned above is: “Interventions aimed at improving their mental health might focus on reducing work related stress, and increasing the support available to them.”
Who will care for the teachers?